The Ceylon Government Gazette

The Ceylon Government Gazette was the official arm of the administration which published all notices of the Government, including Laws, Taxes, Rulings and news. The reading rooms of the Sri Lanka National Archives contains leather bound volumes from the British Period up to the present.

The following are extracts from various registers and is not a complete and comprehensive list.

Ceylon Government Gazette of 20th January, 1820

Letter written by the Maha Modeliar and the Native Headmen of the Maritime Provinces.


       His Excellency the Honourable General SIR ROBERT BROWNINRIGG,
               Baronet, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath,
                      Governor and Commander in Chief on the Island of Ceylon.

Honorable Sir,

Indebted to your Excellency for innumerable kindness and benefits, we cannot see the period of your departure approach without feelings of deep and universal regret.

Your Excellency had no sooner landed on Ceylon than the active qualities of your mind and the benevolence of your disposition were called into action by the visitation of a dreadful famine. The prompt measures adopted by the government for the importation of Grain were under Providence the means of saving the lives of many thousands of the inhabitants and the contributions, which were set on foot for the relief of a starving population, owed their origin entirely and their efficacy principally to your Excellency’s humane and charitable example.

That grievous and vexatious impost the bazaar tax bad long been the subject of much complaint, it bore with peculiar severity on the poorer class of inhabitants who are dependant for the support of their families on the scanty produce of their gardens. Its repeal was bailed, as your Excellency must well remember with every demonstration of joy and gratitude.

These measures, are examples of the long series of humane, benevolent and useful acts of your Excellency’s administration, all tending to one common object, – the increase of happiness and the improvement of the condition of the people. It is this line of conduct in conjunction with your Excellency’s urbanity and condescension of manner towards all ranks and the ready access afforded to the humblest individual to petition for acts of grace and redress, that has endeared the name of SIR ROBERT BROWNRIGG to every inhabitant of Ceylon.

The benefits and favours just alluded to, were felt and acknowledged, as soon as received- your Excellency has conferred on us another obligation, which there is every reason to expect will merit the gratitude of posterity in the highest degree it consists in your uniting the whole Island under one government, the advantages resulting from this union in relation to internal tranquility and security and to inland trade are in part beginning to be felt; but it is only in process of time, that they can all be duly appreciated.

Your Excellency had not long assured the government of Ceylon before you had occasion to perceive that the agricultural and commercial interest of the colony were susceptible of that improvement which they have since in many respects received there were other considerations which demanded the serious attention of an humane and enlightened Governor. The knowledge of the Holy religion of Christ, which the Natives had obtained, was in too many instances vague and imperfect, the schools for the education of youth were few and ill-organized, and the institution for the poor and the infirm were neither large nor so liberally endowed as the extensive distress of the inhabitants appeared to require.

In the short period of seven years we have witnessed a more general diffusion of Christian knowledge – the scriptures, under the fostering protection of your Excellency’s government, have been ably translated and extensively circulated, edifices have been erected for public worship, many of them by your private munificence while the pious example set in your Excellency’s own person has induced a respect for religion which has had a visible effect on the morals and the happiness of the people.

In dwelling on your Excellency’s pious and charitable exertions, we cannot omit noticing how zealously and humanely they have been assisted by your amiable Lady- the schools which have been established at her private expense and the personal attention that she has devoted to the education of the orphans whom she has taken under her protection are indisputable evidence of the liberality and the condescending benevolence of her character.

We fear that we can hardly look for your Excellency’s return to Ceylon, we are anxious to preserve and to transmit to our children some memorial of one who has acquired such strong and such just claims on our respect and our attachment; we therefore hope to be pardoned the liberty we taken in requesting that your Excellency will on your arrival in England, do us the honour of sitting for your picture, and if Lady BROWNRIGG will give us the additional satisfaction of one whose affability and kindness we can never forget, the obligation will be great indeed!

It is becoming that those who owe so much to your Excellency should show that they are not ungrateful for the benefits they have received-they can consider no evidence of their feelings so respectful to your Excellency certainly none so gratifying to themselves, as the one they have ventured to suggest.

Vast as the distance is which will separate your Excellency from those who have so long been the objects of your paternal care and solicitude, your resemblance will in some degree console them for the loss they sustain – it may even answer a higher purpose it may serve to animate the good conduct of some of those humble individuals whose religious knowledge your have promoted, whose education you have aided or whose necessities you have relieved.

With the most fervent wishes for the safe arrival of your Excellency and Lady BROWNRIGG in your native country.

We have the honor to subscribe ourselves,

Your Excellency’s most faithful most obedient and humble servants,

                                                                              (signed with 262 signatures)

His Excellency’s reply to the native Headmen


To the Native Headmen.

The strong expressions of your approbation of my Government and attachment to Lady BROWNRIGG and myself contained in your address are most gratifying to my feelings, though at the same time they increase my regret at leaving this Island, where I have so long placed my chief happiness in contributing, according to the best of my abilities to your security and comfort.

In recapitulating the sad event of the year 1813 you remind me of a grievous calamity which occurred so soon after my first arrival that unable to prevent what I could not foresee. I was reduced to revise the best means of alleviating those sufferings, which were beyond my power to remove – In this distressing duty I was so promptly seconded by every one is the settlement capable of giving his aid, that little more was left for me than to express my good-will and set the example which they were all eager to follow.

In repealing the Bazaar tax, I conceive that I was not only relieving the poorer class of inhabitants from an impost which bore hard upon their scanty resources, but that I was also justified by moral as well as political expediency, in removing a restraint upon trade and private industry, which opened a dangerous temptation to fraud in the petty dealer, and oppressive extortion in the lower servants of Government.

The union of the whole Island under the mild dominion of the British Government, cannot fail to produce by a confirmation of peaceful security and a large segmentation of internal wealth the most beneficial results – These good effects have as you truly state already began to appear – but time is necessary to develop the resources of a country hitherto so little known, and to rouse into useful action the energies of a people long cramped under a tyrannical despotism.

The welfare and prosperity of every country depend so much upon the state of agriculture and commerce, that it would be an unpardonable negligence in any Government not to give a full attention to those two great sources of public happiness – I am gratified to hear your approbation of my measures upon those important subjects, in which, I trust, a material improvement will be soon effected through your steady perseverance, “aided by the present connection with the fertile Provinces of the Interior, so that agricultural industry and commercial activity may, by reacting on one another, increase the mass of capital and enlarge the stock of comfort in every class of community.

But it would be in vain to augment the wealth of a nation without a due regard to that religious and moral cultivation which can alone enable a people either to deserve or enjoy prosperity. It affords me therefore the highest gratification to see the progress which has been made in the publication of the Scriptures in the native languages – The pure and holy precepts of the Gospel can never be generally known in vain, the consequence assuredly will be an improvement in genuine religion among the natives professing Christianity, and sooner or later, a conversion of the idolatrous heathen.

Nothing can more contribute to accelerate these important events than the numerous Schools which have been established during my Government, and I have heard with emotions of peculiar delight your expressions of warm gratitude to Lady BROWNRIGG for the pains she has taken and the constant solicitude she has shown in founding and superintending establishment where native children have been trained up under the vigilance of her own guardian care, and the best foundation laid for their leading, in their mature age, a virtuous and happy life.

I cannot but feel highly gratified at your desire to have Portraits of LADY BROWNRIGG and myself. I will take care to have them painted immediately on my arrival in England and engravings shall be executed by the best artists, so that each of you may have a resemblance which you desire to posses, though is never can be a memorial so useful to you in animating you to good conduct, according to your own expression, as it will be flattering and honourable to myself.

I now bid you adieu, – I sincerely thank you for your anxiety for my safe voyage and happy arrival in my native country and I wish you all manure of felicity in a country, in which I have lived long enough to regard it with almost an interest equal to that which I feel for my own.

                                                                                        KING’S HOUSE
                                                                                                                      Colombo, 29th January 1820

Details from the Ceylon Government Gazettes at the Sri Lanka National Archives Department.